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Blog 2: Feminist Theories

Equal treatment theory seems really similar to the "Golden Rule," that you should treat others as how you want to be treated. Because of their similarities, they also seem to have the same shortcomings. That is, when taken by itself, the theory might be lacking, especially when you don't know the perspective of the other party in question.

Cultural Feminism addresses this better as it places emphasis on differing perspectives. Where Equal treatment strives for equality by assimilation, Cultural Feminism celebrates the differences. It seems up for debate as to which method provides better equality. Critical Race and Lesbian Feminism seems really similar to Cultural Feminism with more emphasis on differences from other groups that are victims of discrimination.

Dominance Theory focuses on gender power differences. Some ideas pertaining to follow Dominance Theory feel like a stretch to me. Pornography, for instance, doesn't seem like it degrades women to me. Feminists for Free Expression argues against most of the arguments as to why pornography might be degrading. I have yet to hear a strong case against pornography.

Postmodern Feminism suggests that there is no such thing as truth. This sounds exactly like Wittgenstein to me, where he concludes that, "Where (or of what) one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence." It appears irrefutable that there is no such thing as absolute truth and no such thing as deductive reasoning. I disagree that one must remain silent though. Math is probably the closest thing to truth. Not being able to prove that numbers exist in the first place doesn't mean that it can't be put to use once you assume the preliminary premises. Like in Math, following a theory that might not be absolute truth has its uses and is better than doing nothing, which essentially is really just a pragmatic approach.

Pragmatic Feminism seems really similar to Utilitarianism to me. At least, I would use the same argument to defend them. I would place Pragmatic Feminism at a higher level of abstraction than that of the other theories. That is, one can use Pragmatic Feminism to decide how to act while viewing something in the eyes of another theory, like Cultural Feminism, which might be why the critic in our reading would say that, "Being a legal pragmatist means never having to say you have a theory." It can't really be compared with the other theories (except maybe Postmodern Feminism).

Feminist Legal Theories

In such a dynamic and powerful movement as feminism, it is both logical and expected that it would have several different theories and procedures.

Equality Feminism believes that women have the same rights as men, due to several classically liberal ideas, such as inalienable rights and personal freedoms. They view the male narrative as a valid one and as a reference point, and seek legal parity with them as well. This has had somewhat mixed-results, and some feminists criticize equality feminists for their ignoring of things that are quintessentially the domain of women, such as pregnancy and child birth.

Cultural Feminists believe that equality between men and women should acknowledge the intrinsic differences that divide the genders, such as childbirth and pregnancy; for example, they shouldn't need to reference a male point of view on certain things that pertain only to women. This theory is criticized from the opposite angle of cultural feminists, in that by doing such a thing, it exaggerates the differences between the genders.

Dominance Theory, sometimes referred to as 'radical feminism', suggests that women are seen as inferior to men politically, socially, economically, ect ect, because of a ingrained patriarchy. According to the dominance theorists, men exercise their control by de-valuing women, and objectifying them in various forms of media. Dominance theory is somewhat controversial, for many observers believe that it ignores other dynamics to raise up the male-female dynamic. Also, several of the more radical feminists (such as Andrea Dworkin) hamstring their own causes and images through their own actions and statements towards others.

Critical Racial Feminism is the belief that many white feminists ignore the message of women of color, and those in poverty, instead creating a over-arching narrative of 'women versus the world'. They espouse multiple stories and identities, and believe strongly in the sharing of them thereof.

Lesbian Feminism is somewhat related to Critical Race feminism, in that it excludes the idea of a unifying core of 'feminism'. As the name would suggest, it focuses on the narrative/identity of lesbian women, of different ethnic groups and class.

Eco-Feminism is the theory that women and the Earth share a common history of oppression and abuse by men, and view feminism as a way to see the Earth as a reference point for their struggles. Eco-feminists believe that the fight for the Earth is another facet of a struggle against oppression, and often ally themselves with other social interest groups.

Pragmatic Feminism believes that although narratives and core experiences of groups are useful, the individual woman is also important. By rejecting universalism, they embrace individual interpretations of feminism; there exists a great variety among the pragmatist movement.

Postmodern Feminism is odd, and often nonsensical to a casual reader. It embraces deconstruction of long-standing truths (which may or may not make sense), and the construction of new 'truths' based off of practically anything. Needless to say, Postmodern Feminism isn't widespread.

Week 2: Different Theories

\\The list below is just my overview of each of the theories, and my abbreviations for each one. This is mainly to provide context for my entry. Feel free to just skip down to the good stuff after the list.

Feminist Legal Theories

A. Equal Treatment Theory (ETT)
The main underlying point is that men and women should not be legally treated different, solely due to gender. The article cites Ruth Ginsburg as the driving force behind this theory, and states that she held the belief that many differences between gender are constructed by society and not inherited from genes (17).
The article then goes over a couple of faults in this theory. The main issue seems to be twofold. First, men are used as the standard for legal rights, of which women can meet but not exceed. Similarly related but slightly different, women do require some different rights because they are biologically different (18).

B. Cultural Feminism (CF)
This theory seems to try to rectify the problems in ETT. CF believes that there are biological and cultural differences that need to be recognized by the courts and society. Furthermore, CF states that men and women are brought up differently in terms of ethics and values, but that does not mean that men's values and ethics are better or worse than women's and vice versa (19-20). Overall, society should embrace these differences as strengths.
Then the issue that arises is that by noting and acting on these differences is that stereotypes and the status quo can be reinforced. The article ends on a question posed by Martha Minow, "When does treating people differently emphasize their difference (Note: Copy kinda faded out on that last word, assumed that it is "difference") and stigmatize and hinder them on that basis, and when does treating people the same become insensitive to their differences and likely to stigmatize or hinder them on that basis?" (22)

C. Dominance Theory (DT)
DT rejects the driving forces of ETT and CF, which believe that equality is achieved through obtaining rights equivalent to or the same as men. DT has a much more Freudian/Marxist stance of (essentially) class warfare between men and women. DT stresses that the patriarchy controls all aspects of society and maintains itself by making being a woman a second class (24).
The flaws in this theory are that it generalizes all women and makes it seem like women are incapable of controlling their own lives (or maybe evens goes as far as to deny them freewill) (25-26).

D. Critical Race Feminism (CRF)
CRF has a lot of stuff going on, which I'll try to address later on, but the gist of it relies upon the ideas of "multiple consciousness" and the "fringe minority" (26-27). These two ideas together rely less on traditional rhetoric, but instead upon storytelling as a means of conveying social context through the implications of the subtext.

E. Lesbian Feminism (LF)
LF is related to CRF through the idea of "antiessentialism" (Defined as in opposition to essentialism, the belief that there is an defining "thing" between women, regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, etc. (26)) (29). LF sees GLBT life as inherently different from heterosexual life and requires different rights.

F. Ecofeminism (Ef)
Is a long and complicated movement that cannot be easily summed up in a few sentences. The best that can be hoped to describe Ef is that the way that humanity treats the environment and the way that humanity treats minorities are closely related (31). The way to solve this problem is through raising awareness and activism. Again, there are a many different branches of Ef that it is really hard to describe it as a singular movement with similar practices.

G. Pragmatic Feminism (PF)
The theory that ascribes to no theory. Like philosophical pragmatism, PF goes with what is most likely to produce results, and denies overly abstract ideas. Universality is an impossible pipe dream that leads other theories astray, and away from what they desire (34-35).

H. Postmodern Feminism (PmF)
PmF rides high in the land of the abstract. Piggybacking on 60's French philosopher Derrida, PmF overindulges in the sub context of society. PmF looks past face value, to the point of denying it, and tries to sift through to find the value of the words (or actions) underneath (36).

\\End of Overview

So what to make of all these different theories?
Straight off the bat, I disagree with ETT, DT, and PmF. ETT seems too simplistic a model, but its heart is in the right place. I understand using the dominant power as a gauge for disparity in power, but I'm inclined to agree with the view that what is best for men is not best for women. That is not to say that women are not entitled to any of the rights that men have (and in fact all civil liberties should be the same), but there are going to be areas which by necessity have to differ slightly (E.G. Maternity/Paternity leave). Furthermore, some of the rights that are in existence are almost an overreach of power, and probably should be limited (E.G. Some laws of self-defense in Texas or Florida which can be used to justify the murder of a home invader with little provocation). So it does not seem to me that it is right to just want to let women have all the rights that are conferred onto men, because there are both "good" and "bad" laws that are inherited through history.
DT willingly dives into conflict and is too confrontational for my taste. Also, as stated above, DT seems to share Freudian and Marxist ideas that are questionable. It is hard to deny the existence of a patriarchy, however it should not be confused with a Patriarchy (I.E. A conscious, malevolent movement with a will of its own). It should always be kept in mind that while government the government is primarily made up of men and is predisposed towards siding with men and heterosexuality, that the government is still made up of people and not an entity of its own. I feel that more can be done by creating awareness than by declaring cultural war, or by seeding distrust amongst men and women.
PmF is just upsettingly abstract. As a philosophy major, I've always had this belief that ever since Descartes (and more so, really we can blame Plato, but that's a whole 'nother thing), philosophy and theory has become too abstract for the majority of people. It absolutely does not serve any practical purpose, and knowledge that exists as knowledge is fine and dandy, but a theory that is either too subjective or elevates itself by denying other theories through skepticism and abstraction is pretentious up to the point of intellectual masturbation (that is to say, completely self-serving (and within the context of this discussion brings a delightful new way to understand "Ivory Tower")). Theory must be able to influence practice in order to justify its existence, or perhaps it would be better said to improve quality of life across the board.
On the flipside, PF delights me, but is a little too shortsighted. It is refreshing to see change in such an immediate way. However, the only way to be "egalitarian" is to have a game plan. Like chess, legal moves should be made with the endgame in mind and not for quick victories.
So we look to Ef on how to play to "win". While enjoyable in its longterm objectives, it does not have any solidarity. Ef seems to be very inclusive and covers topics of spirituality, ecocentrism, care ethics, feminism, etc. In order to try to appease all of these view points, there is a striving towards universality. Needless to say, the minorities of the minorities are neglected in this process.
Which finally brings this blog to end with CF, CRF, and LF. I group these together, because they all seem similar to me. They all focus on different groups, but they look at protecting or helping these groups in much the same way. By breaking away from trying to make everyone the same, there is recognition that individuals are different from one another, because we all exist in relationship to one another, and not as static entities. The reading provided the example of the woman who was a Latina, Breast Cancer survivor, mother, etc. Depending on the context of a situation she may be in, she could be more or less than other people in the room. For example, within her neighborhood she could be a community leader, and if there are public officials around trying to campaign or raise awareness, she wields a lot of power. On the other hand, she could go to the state capitol to protest, and be just another person in the crowd. These three theories recognize that at different points, she is in need of different rights than from the campaigners or the government officials, even though they are all considered, as citizens, at the same "power level" (for lack of a better term) in the eyes of the law.

Week 2 Blog Entry


Bound together by basic commonalities, the different expressions of
feminism seek, in the body of their doctrine, to use the law to
implement the vehicles of change they believe will attain their ultimate
goal: Genuine gender equality. Inherent to all these theories is the belief
that women should be treated with equality, that they are not treated
equally, and that in some ways woman are different that men. Whether or not
those differences should effect the laws governing men and women is debated
among the groups, but it seems that the differences are at least
acknowledged. Because there are commonalities underpinning each
sub-category of feminism, lawmakers have managed to affect a certain amount
of change regarding the relationship between the genders. However, because
there are still differences in theory and doctrine among feminists, certain
laws and forms of social progression have been questioned and even reversed
in the quest for what each individual perceives as truth.

Between the different schools of feminist theory, the basic
differences lie either in the intersectional treatment of different groups
of women, or in the question of what specific rights women should seek.
Post-modernist feminism supports an evaluation based on each individual
case, with every piece of evidence open to interpretation. Yet it fails to
establish a standard that the cases should be held to. Similar, and yet
with more defined belief structures, are the Critical Race, Eco, and
Lesbian feminist groups. They argue that because of different situational
circumstances, no single law can make all women equal. To institutionalize
gender equality, lawmakers need to first recognize that a single law can
affect diverse groups differently. Pragmatic feminism also rejects this
theory of essentialism, and holds that there are no general solutions for
all cases. They do not espouse a concrete theory, and instead hold that
everything must be judged in context

Those most known for propagating 'essentialism' are the proponents of
the Equal Treatment Theory. According to this theory, all women should be
treated the same as men, without regard for physiological differences. It
is under this particular umbrella that the general populace has found
feminism most palatable, and blanket laws of equality have been instituted.
The attention paid to subgroups of women is minimal, and the rights sought
are defined by the rights that men already have. Divergent from this, and
founded in direct response to this theory, is Cultural feminism. Seeking to
define the differences between men and women, cultural feminism holds that
there should be individual rights tailored to men, and specific rights for
women. These views are expressed within the large concepts of 'men' and
of 'women', again ignoring potential race and class differences. Dominence Feminism arose in response, fearing that Cultural feminism would advocate socially imposed roles on women. Espousing a belief in inherent differences between men and women, they believe these differences are socially created, a result of men 'dominating' women. Again, this theory embraces general catagorizations for both men and women.

Overall, the desire for political change is very present in every
group, but the means through which they want to express that change varies
so wildly, the potential for effective equality can be questioned. The
large variety of feminist groups appears to have resulted in a host of laws
supporting each theory, and I think it would be interesting to examine how
these divergent laws interact.

week two blog/ different approches

I think the approches in "The Feminist legal theory" define gender in many different ways, depending on who is definding gender and whos stend point it is coming from. For example there were many different feminist who were speaking in the article like, lesbian feminist, cultural feminist, feminist who stand behind equality amoung men, women, critical race feminist, so on and so forth.

Some of the feminist theories i feel do account for the intersextionality of gender because the article details all the different stories the women have, how they come from different backgroungs and how different races, class, location and age play a part into how they see and define gender.

I also think different theoretical approches have but don't have different political agendas. theorectical approches have different agendas depending on who is the target and who they are trying to get their message acrooss to. like the hand out "CWLU" about the consciousness-raising groups seemed like it was targeted towards white upper class women. I say this because of the questions that were asked on the handout. "How do you feel about housework? What does your husband do around the house?". To me that question is aimed more towards white families/societies at that time (1971) than it does in black families. Usually both partners were working to provide for the family.
Lastly the theoretical approches don't have different political agendas because the main force behind their agenda is to empower, educate and emprove the equality of men and women. To change societies frame of thinking about gender and the "roles"/identies that men and women are "suppose" to folllow.

Week 2 Blog

While the equal treatment theory acknowledges and accepts that women are to be entitled to the same rights as men, it limits this to areas where they are both similarly situated.

This leaves out many areas in which women have still been held back in society as there are areas of a woman's life that men cannot themselves experience on a personal level. In the areas where they are different, women continued to suffer compared to men in society.

This is where cultural feminism comes in and has been both helpful cases but also hurtful and limiting if carried to far. Cultural feminism emphasizes the differences both biologically and culturally of the two genders. In the cases of special treatment, one may have to use caution as it can indicate a woman's need for special protection in order to be productive in a male dominate society.

Dominance theory gives more clarity to the complexity in the levels of patriarchy within our society. Neither men or women are left out of how we are shaped and formed according gender behaviors that are specific to each sex.

Critical race feminism and it's opponents or anti-essentialist's have embraced and brought forward the intersectionality of women in ways that are easy to understand and accept. Having a "multiple consciousness" is important and enables others to see things from the perspective of another. There are many more variables to being a woman than their biological level of being.

Lesbian feminism focused on the links between heterosexism and sexism. There are many rights that heterosexual couples automatically inherit upon becoming married where same sex couples do not have the initial right to marriage.

Eco-feminism focuses on the intersectionality of oppression between woman and nature.

In addition to the readings for this week, I happened to come across a couple current articles that were interesting to me and felt that they could be applied to the readings of the week.

These are the links.....

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_14244076?source=email

The above article I felt was a good example of the legal methods we read about last week in chapter 3. Especially the contextual reasoning and consciousness raising methods.

The next one, (although I think the husband is really kind of scrambling for anything he can find to get out of being found quilty)caused me to wonder if this is something that could be considered under the equal treatment theory from chapter 2. Maybe there is something else we will read later that better explains this but I thought I'd ask.

http://www.startribune.com/nation/82391017.html#


blog 02 // approaches


All of the approaches in this chapter took up woman's equality and justice, but each had varying critical methods and fundamentals in detail. The ideologies were described in a sort of progression - each theory lacked something, after analysis, and that's where the following movement came in. This is demonstrated with almost every approach that we read about. In particular, critical race feminism was a progression of previous theories that did not entail a struggle based on racism at all. This resulted in an exclusion and generalization of women, by failing to acknowledge the particular oppression that, say, any non-white woman experienced. Hence, critical race feminism was in fact an expansion of feminist struggle.

At the same time, there were ideological shifts in the different theories we read about. While they all have the same very general goal of women's justice, they differ on their methods. Some of the approaches differed on their definitions of equality at all. For example, while equal treatment theory stood for the literally equal treatment of women in the public sphere, cultural feminism rejected the assimilation of formal equality and argued for difference-based justice. In turn, it was an expansion of a feminist movement, but there was also a definite shift in priorities.

I thought that the different ways law was dealt with in these movements were particularly definitive, as well. Equal treatment theory utilized law as the main vessel of change, whereas dominance theory and critical race feminism portray the law as a way of implementing patriarchal values,and lesbian feminism comes with an exclusion from the benefits of marriage.

Then, with pragmatic feminism and postmodernism, there seems to be a turn-around motion in gender itself, and the power of structure. More complex ideas of identity construction come into play, implementing approaches, I think, from all of the previous theories described.

Blog 2

The chapter on the various feminist legal theories helps to demonstrate how various groups of feminists differ in their ideas on what constitutes equality and how to achieve equality, while they all work toward the common goal of equal rights for women. Different groups of feminists disagree on how to define women's equality to men. Proponents of the equal treatment theory and the cultural feminists hold opposing views on equality. Feminists who support the equal treatment theory believe that women should be treated legally the same as men, and they look at how woman are similar to men. On the other hand, cultural feminists believe that the law should take into consideration the differences, whether they are biological or social, between men and women. Critical race feminists hold distinct views on equality of women in the law. While the cultural feminists emphasize the differences between men and women (and thus assuming that all women are the same), critical race feminists believe that the law should take into consideration the differences among women. They believe that intersectionality is an important factor to consider in relation to women and equality. In addition to problems with defining equality, the ways in which feminists of each theory work differ. For example, dominance theorists use the method of "consciousness-raising" where women share their experiences with other women. In contrast, advocates of equal treatment form political groups, such as the ACLU, and take political action (like the Women's Rights Project). Lesbian feminists also use a very different method; they use science in order to aid in their argument. This brief exploration of the various feminist legal theories helps to demonstrate how feminists differ on defining equality and in their methods of achieving equality.

Week 2: Feminsit Theories Response

After reading through the several feminist theoretical approaches, it is quite evident that some overlap in major themes, while others greatly differentiate. To begin with, all of these theories have one common link; that gender has been ruled by the public sphere and because of this, women have been forced to live in a patriarchal world.

The first theory that really seemed to to stand on it's own (very few overlaps with other theories) was Ecofeminism. Ecofeminism, as I understood it, is the belief that the way that the dominant world (while, patriarchal, western, etc.) views and treats nature relates the way the world views and treats women. Both are subordinated in society and are forced to endure constant oppression by the dominant forces present. There is a political force invoked into this theory, obviously with the focus upon women's rights in relation to nature's rights. Both are advocated for in this movement since they share such a strong connection through their oppression.

I find the relations between Equal Treatment Theory and Dominance Theory very interesting. Equal Treatment Theory is the more basic, popular form of feminism, while MacKinnon's, Dominance Theory is seen as the radical form of feminism. Both differentiate in basics. For example, in Equal Treatment, feminists are told to advocate for equal rights and equal relations between men and women. In Dominance, feminists are told that the system must be rebuilt from the bottom to top since equal treatment does not exist (and cannot exist) in the current world we live in. Although these seem very different, it is interesting how both do not account for intersectionality of gender. Both see women as the same across the board. Equal treatment seeing women as just needing equal rights and then problems will begin to dissolve, not taking into account the differences between sexual oppression for a black woman versus a Native American woman. The same is for Dominance, with all oppression relating to gender and no other factors (race, class, etc.) being taken into consideration. Both also define gender differently, with Equal Treatment seeing it as a facet of a person, while Dominance seeing it as a major role of a person.

Culture Feminism and Critical Race Feminism, however, seem to do a better job at observing intersectionality of gender. Both take a critical look at a woman's life and the other roles that she is defined by (rate, occupation, living situation, etc.) and demonstrate how depending on your place on the scale that is enforced by patriarchy, your position in society will greatly differ. Both of these types of theories define gender according to the other roles a person defines themselves as. A person's gender is only one facet of an individual. Lesbian Feminism could relate to this as well, with a more focused view of feminism, except they do have an intersectional view of gender.

Pragmatic Feminism and Post Modern Feminism I saw as similar. Pragmatic sees gender as an ever changing subject matter that we can work around in the moment, but will inevitably change. The same is with Post Modern with gender being seen as an undefined role that cannot be completely defined and laid down in law. Both see intersectionality in gender as more broad. Both do not address specifics as class or race, but see everyone as entirely individual and indefinable.

Overall, I would argue that all of these different types of theories have political view points, although I admit that I am confused with how each one is different from the other politically (i.e. Pragmatic versus Post Modern.) To reiterate, all have a basic relation and when look at individually some correlate more than others do, but each differentiates fundamentally at the core of their theoretical stance on gender.

week 2

Equal Treatment Theory
The main aspect of this theory, which also results in its main critique, is the importance of proving women's similarity to men. This theory downplays gender in order to erase legal prejudice.

Cultural Feminism
These feminists instead say that by claiming equality on the basis of sameness was furthering the effects of patriarchy. Praising differences led to bringing the attention to the laws that did not acknowledge these differences.

Dominance Theory
This theory is based on a society run by patriarchy which inherently claims women as the subordinate. Conscious raising is introduced as a way to become aware of inequalities and also as a step to address legal inequalities. However, women's experiences and reactions are assumed, ignoring the effects of race, class etc.

Critical Race Feminism
These theorists opposed the concept of the universalized identity of woman. This group stresses the concept of intersectionality. Story telling is used as a legal tool but mostly meant for the legal arena as opposed to conscious raising. Also, race is seen as socially constructed not biological.

Lesbian Feminism
Similarly, these feminists point out the illusion of one woman identity. They show the multiple and separate challenges that lesbians face because of their sexuality. They see gender as socially constructed and run into the sameness/differences argument as the equal treatment theory and cultural feminists.

Ecofeminism
This theory is based on the historical affiliation of the man with reason and strength and the woman with gentles and nature. Because of this, the oppression of women is the oppression of nature. They also rely heavily on context and thus using intersectionality. There is a great focus on environmental justice as well.

Pragmatic Feminism
This theories goal is to come up with the best possible solution for the current situation. Because of this there is no ideological goal but a stress on the individual.

Postmodern Feminism
These theorists focus on the underlying powers that control us and deconstructing these powers. They concentrate on disrupting what is known to be the truth and revealing its corruption. The idea of socially constructed beings is central to this argument using the theory of performativity to both explain this as well as challenge it.

Week 2 blog assignment

This week, we begin to explore in more detail various feminist theoretical approaches to the law. As you read the introductions to these approaches, I'd like you to start thinking about what differentiates them. For example, do these approaches define gender in similar or different ways? Do they seem designed to account for the intersectionality of gender (how multiple aspects of social existence, like race, class, location, age interact to shape our understandings of gender)? Do different theoretical approaches appear to have different political agendas?
These questions are intended as starting points. Feel free to address other distinctions that you see. I do not expect your response to be more than preliminary observations; we will revisit the distinctions that you identify as we delve more deeply into these theoretical approaches.

Suggested length: 200 words (I won't count words; this is merely a guideline, and the lenghtes of your posts will likely vary depending on your previous familiarity with feminist theory and your writing style).